Saturday, October 25, 2014

Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

I've posted this article before, but.......here it is, that time again! 
Día de los Muertos  approaches with celebrations beginning on November 1, (Día de Muertos Chiquitos--The Day of the Little Dead) ( also All Saints Day) and continuing on November 2, (All Souls Day).  It is a joyous occasion when the memory of ancestors and the continuity of life is celebrated, and a beloved holiday in Mexico and South America.  It's celebrated in Tucson with a famous parade and festivities that go on late into the night.



Like the Celtic traditions of Samhain, which were also associated with the end of the year and the last harvest festival, it was believed that at this time of the year the souls of the departed can return to visit the living (the "veils are thin"). It is not a time of mourning since, as the Latin saying goes, "the path back to the living world must not be made slippery by tears".


Celebrations for the dead originated in indigenous Mexico before the Spanish conquest. Following the Spanish conquest of Mexico during the 16th century there was a blending of indigenous customs with the new Catholic religion. All Saints' Day and All Hallows Eve (Halloween) roughly coincided with the preexisting Día de Los Muertos resulting in the present day event.
 
 Although the skeleton is a strong symbol for both contemporary Halloween and los Días de Los Muertos, the meaning is very different. For Días de Los Muertos the skeleton is not a scary or macabre symbol at all, but rather represents the dead playfully mimicking the living.




Very often, a large community altar may include many small personal shrines, such as the one below that includes Frieda Kahlo.



Or here are some personal shrines made by artists:

Preparation begins weeks in advance when statues, candies, breads and other items to please the departed are sold in markets. A sweet bread, pan de muerto, with decorations representing bones is very popular, as are sugar skulls made from casts. All sorts of art objects and toys are created. This gives the economy a boost in much the same way as our Christmas season does. Alters ofrecetas (offerings) are set up in the home with offerings of sweets and fruits, corn and vegetables, as well as the favorite foods and beverages of the deceased. It's not unusual to see a good cigar and whiskey bottle beside a photograph of a loved one. These offerings may later be given away or consumed by the living after their "essence", and the loving remembrance, has been enjoyed by the dead. Marigolds are the traditional decorative flower.

The particulars of the celebration vary widely. On November 1, Día de Muertos Chiquitos, the departed children are remembered. The evening is sometimes called la Noche de Duelo, The Night of Mourning, marked by a candlelight procession to the cemetery. On November 2, Día de los Muertos, the spirits of the dead return. Entire families visit the graves of their ancestors, bringing favorite foods and alcoholic beverages as offerings to the deceased as well as a picnic lunch for themselves. Traditionally there is a feast in the early morning hours of November 2nd although many now celebrate with an evening meal.

There are sugar skulls and toys for the children, emphasizing early on that death is a part of the life cycle, and the importance of remembering those who have passed on to another kind of life.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Little Sychronicity............


My previous post was a little meditation on the "Ode to Joy",  and I made a comment about a scene from the movie "Immortal Beloved" that has always brought that wonderful piece of music utterly alive for me:
"There the boy  floats on his back  gazing up at that vast starry sky, and  it seems that the stars themselves come down to join him, and he is ever expanding with them, vast, and free, and one of them.  I could  never forget that image...............the stars within the music, ever expanding in a great ripple. "
So when I walked outside the following morning  (I have a paved porch) I found a series of "ripples" on the floor, composed of perfect semi-circles made of a line of dirt.  I know the image above is hardly an impressive image, but the circles are  inexplicable.............I can't figure out how they were made, as we had no wind or rain to make them, and I've never seen the phenomenon before.

But they did make me laugh, feeling that, symbolically speaking, they were a reminder to remember those ripples, that "Ode to Joy" we participate in, and generate.  And I thank the "Powers that Be" for the reminder.............

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"The Ode to Joy".........


 On certain days, I wake up humming the Ode to Joy.  Or I find myself humming it in the course of the day.  For me it's a reminder from the Powers That Be to remember, remember the great resonant joy of life and being that underlies everything, and try to re-connect.  Sometimes that thread of song does the trick, reconnects me.  No one really knows what Beethoven felt when he composed this beloved work, but what a gift he left us.



In the movie "Immortal Beloved" there is a wonderful  scene where the  Composer is remembering himself as a child as the Ode to Joy plays, escaping the brutality of his drunken father through a window, the young boy runs faster and faster through a darkened  wood.  Finally he leaps into  a pool of water, illuminated by the moon and the stars.   There the boy  floats on his back  gazing up at that vast starry sky, and  it seems that the stars themselves come down to join him, and he is ever expanding with them, vast, and free, and one of them.

I could  never forget that image...............the stars within the music, ever expanding in a great ripple. 


PS:  I just noticed that this is the 777 post in my blog.  That's got to be a good omen!


I was delighted to visit Bill Moyers article about "Ode to Joy" flash mobs around the world:

http://billmoyers.com/2013/11/14/beethoven%E2%80%99s-flash-mobs/

Here's one of them:  

 Hong Kong Festival Orchestra Flash Mob 2013: Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" 

 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Margo Adler: "Vampires are Us"

 

I was greatly saddened this summer to learn of the death of Margo Adler, a long time spokeswoman for the Pagan movement, Priestess and well known NPR correspondant.  Her book DRAWING DOWN THE MOON has been so important for helping to understand the growth of the Pagan movement. 

Last summer it was my pleasure to have breakfast with Margo at the Sirius Rising Festival in New York, to hear her speak to those gathered about her new book Vampires Are Us: Understanding Our Love Affair with the Immortal Dark Side (Weiser Books), and her questions about why Vampires are so important in contemporary storytelling, why people are so fascinated with the Vampire, and how vampires have changed from their earlier origins.  The reluctant vampires of Angel and Twilight are not the same as the monsters of  Bela Lugosi's time.

I pondered on this blog the work of  Joe Slate and his  research on  Psychic Vampires and Judith Orloff's comments on Energy Theft , but Margo Adler takes the conversation about Vampires into a whole new place.   

On a personal note, I wish Margo was still with us for many reasons,  and I imagine she would have something to say about the disturbing rise of movies and books about Zombies now. I'll leave that one alone for now, although I sometimes have my concerns...............the walking dead?  Oh............
"As Adler, a longtime NPR correspondent and question asker, sat vigil at her dying husband's bedside, she found herself newly drawn to vampire novels and their explorations of mortality. Over the next four years--by now she has read more than 270 vampire novels, from teen to adult, from gothic to modern, from detective to comic--she began to see just how each era creates the vampires it needs. She explores the issues of power, politics, morality, identity, and even the fate of the planet that show up in vampire novels today. Perhaps, as Adler suggests, our blood is oil, perhaps our prey is the planet. Perhaps vampires are us. "
Directed by Andrew Bennett
Produced by Jay Schweid
an Ephelants Production


http://youtu.be/1BHYg6Ksf0w








Sunday, October 12, 2014

Ancestral Visitations.........a Samhain Portfolio



Getting ready for my annual Feast of Samhain, I found some old photos that were irresistable in their mystery and their pathos.  Wanted to remember, especially, the unknown Grandmothers who brought me here.  


Just a few "snapshots from the other side of Forever".............................



Thank you.  Thank you all for bringing me here.








Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Goodbye to Democracy and your Tax Money: "The Monster Lurking Inside the TPP"


   "And when states lose, the fines can be enormous: the report notes that 2012 saw the highest monetary award in the history of investor-state dispute resolution: $1.77 billion to Occidental, in a dispute with Ecuador.


  Having said in my previous post that there are times one must stop reading the news, I find myself thinking about exactly that this morning.   As many interests in Congress try now to fast track the TPP, most Americans are barely aware of it if at all.  But the repercussions could be terrifying,  continuing to widen the gap between super wealthy and poor, and locking in a government that is virtually controlled by multi-national profiteering.  We used to have labor unions, anti-trust laws, industry and jobs.  What is evoving is a corporate "aristocracy" - which is ironic, considering the beginning of this country.  Among other things, this "partnership" will enable corporate entities to sue a state, or the country, for "lost income", such as, for example, labeling of foods that are genetically modified. 


  In other words, pretty soon, you may not have the right to know what you are eating.  Because this law will give entities like Monsanto the right to sue for billions of your tax dollars because of "lost profit".  Think it can't happen?  Read - Mexican citizens had to pay millions to Coca Cola because they wanted the sugar content changed.  Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical giant, is currently suing Canada for $100,000 because Canada won't give them a new patent yet.   And how about $1.77 billion dollars to the Occidental corporation from Equador?  How much could that could that country  do to help its citizens with $1.77 billion?

It's bad enough that the military absorbs 60% of all our money.  If this law passes, and corporate greed is given total control in this way.........what's left for humanity and the environment is going to be very little.

  Under the pending, secret #TPP “free trade” deal you would be in trouble for sharing internet content, while big foreign corporations could sue your government for any domestic law that compromises their expected future profits.Get the facts and take action at: www.ExposeTheTPP.org.

 Investor-State Dispute Resolution: The Monster Lurking Inside Free Trade Agreements : from the be-very-afraid dept

  by Glyn Moody

"Unfortunately, against a background of almost total lack of awareness by the public that supra-national structures are being put in place that allow their governments to be overruled, and their laws to be ignored, it is highly unlikely we will get that debate."

 We wrote recently about how multilateral trade agreements have become a convenient way to circumvent democratic decision making. One of the important features of such treaties is the inclusion of an investor-state dispute resolution mechanism, which Techdirt discussed last year. The Huffington Post has a great article about how this measure is almost certain to be part of the imminent TAFTA negotiations, as it already is for TPP, and why that is deeply problematic:

Investor-state resolution has been a common component of U.S.-negotiated pacts with individual nations since the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. But such resolution is not currently permitted in disputes with the U.S. and EU, which are governed by the WTO. All trade deals feature some kind of international resolution for disputes, but the direct empowerment of corporations to unilaterally bring trade cases against sovereign countries is not part of WTO treaties. Under WTO rules, a company must persuade a sovereign nation that it has been wronged, leaving the decision to bring a trade case before the WTO in the hands of elected governments.

Traditionally, this proposed political empowerment for corporations has been defended as a way to protect companies from arbitrary governments or weakened court systems in developing countries. But the expansion of the practice to first-world relations exposes that rationale as disingenuous. Rule of law in the U.S. and EU is considered strong; the court systems are among the most sophisticated and expert in the world. Most cases brought against the United States under NAFTA have been dismissed or abandoned before an international court issued a ruling.

As this rightly points out, investor-state dispute resolution mechanisms were brought in for agreements with countries where the rule of law could not be depended upon. That makes no sense in the case of the US and EU, both of whose legal systems are highly developed (some might say overly so.) The Huffington Post article quotes Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, who explains what she thinks is really going on here:
"The dirty little secret about [the negotiation] is that it is not mainly about trade, but rather would target for elimination the strongest consumer, health, safety, privacy, environmental and other public interest policies on either side of the Atlantic," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. "The starkest evidence ... is the plan for it to include the infamous investor-state system that empowers individual corporations and investors to skirt domestic courts and laws and drag signatory governments to foreign tribunals."
One recent example of the kind of thing that might become increasingly common if investor-state dispute resolution is included in TAFTA and TPP is provided by Eli Lilly and Company. As Techdirt reported earlier this year, the pharma giant is demanding $100 million as compensation for what it calls "expropriation" by Canada, simply because the latter's courts refused to grant Eli Lilly a drug patent on the grounds that it didn't satisfy the conditions set down in law for doing so. A new report (pdf) from the UN Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD), pointed out to us by IP Watch, reveals just how widespread the use of investor-state dispute resolution mechanisms has already become:
The Issues Note reveals that 62 new cases were initiated in 2012, which constitutes the highest number of known ISDS [investor-state dispute settlement] claims ever filed in one year and confirms that foreign investors are increasingly resorting to investor-State arbitration.


By the end of 2012, the total number of known cases reached 518, and the total number of countries that have responded to one or more ISDS claims increased to 95. The overall number of concluded cases reached 244. Out of these, approximately 42 per cent were decided in favour of the State and 31 per cent in favour of the investor. Approximately 27 per cent of the cases were settled.
Although that suggests that states are winning more often than investors, the cost of doing so is a drain on public finances, and ignores cases that never come to arbitration because governments simply give in. And when states lose, the fines can be enormous: the report notes that 2012 saw the highest monetary award in the history of investor-state dispute resolution: $1.77 billion to Occidental, in a dispute with Ecuador. As an accompanying press release from UNCTAD points out, this growing recourse to international arbitration
amplif[ies] the need for public debate about the efficacy of the investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism and ways to reform it
Unfortunately, against a background of almost total lack of awareness by the public that supra-national structures are being put in place that allow their governments to be overruled, and their laws to be ignored, it is highly unlikely we will get that debate.
  Follow Glyn Moody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+

   https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130411/09574122678/investor-state-dispute-resolution-sleeping-monster-inside-free-trade-agreements-begins-to-stir.shtml